Sunday, November 1, 2015

Quotable: James Krakar on “engagement”

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Saturday, October 31st 2015
Because Public Diplomacy officers have, more often than not, studied international relations and communication, lived and worked overseas, had focused training at the Foreign Service Institute, and been coached on culture by the Embassy’s local employees, it is relatively easy for them to meet people of foreign nations – prominent or humble – and establish rapport.  Members of the U.S. armed forces usually have not had these experiences.  Members of the National Guard and armed forces Reserves who are called to active duty and deploy, for instance, have usually been focused on their civilian professions in American communities.

To make service members more effective, an article by Army Reserve Lieutenant Colonel James N. Krakar, The Civil Engagement Spectrum: A Tool for the Human Domain,” in the September-October 2015 issue of Military Review, broke down “engagement” into functions and provided guidelines for use by units and in the schoolhouses.  He reviewed Army doctrine and proposed a “Civil Engagement Spectrum,” partly based on USAID experience. 

Public Diplomacy readers will benefit from the article's primer on Army civil affairs and information Operations.  It’s also useful to think through how an “engagement” can have different purposes -- informative, negotiations, maintenance, and information gatheringKrakar began:

An eager twenty-three-year-old “All-American” lieutenant, full of energy, would be trying to talk to a local villager through an interpreter. Inevitably, the conversation starts sounding like a tactical interrogation: “Hello I am Lieutenant Jones; I am from America. Can you tell me where the Taliban are? Have you seen any IEDs? Have you seen any suspicious people?” We don’t do small talk. And of course the patrol doesn’t get any useful information.

The two main proponents of civil engagement are information operations (IO) and civil affairs (CA). Each group practices civil engagement from a different perspective. In IO doctrine, the purpose of civil engagement is to convey information to a population to induce behavioral change. In contrast, CA doctrine practitioners use civil engagement to gather information to populate various surveys and databases in order to help plan civil support operations. In short, IO is essentially concerned with messaging a population to shape attitudes, while CA is more concerned with collecting information about a population’s needs.

Currently, because IO and CA each have different approaches to obtaining information but may, by necessity, be targeting the same population, their efforts may compete and overlap, often spelling confusion for outside units that try to adapt their procedures to support both endeavors. Consequently, for many small-unit leaders, the lack of a coherent engagement framework causes many civil engagements to drift unproductively into the realm of tactical questioning, as illustrated in the introduction.

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Civil Engagement Spectrum
To address the lack of common terminology and structure in civil engagements, I am proposing a civil engagement spectrum (CES) . . . .  The CES framework contains nested steps and objectives that allow leaders to track their units’ progress during the civil engagement process, as well as during subsequent steps if necessary.  

[The article continues that CES includes street-level engagements (S-LE), meetings, and individual engagements.]

* * * * *

Since key leader engagement can mean S-LE, meeting, or individual engagement to different people, leaders should substitute the term individual engagement instead of key leader engagement.

Individual engagements fall into four main subtypes: informative, negotiations, maintenance, and information gathering. Usually, individual engagements will include elements of each subtype with one being predominant.

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Information-gathering . . . entails unit representatives conducting detailed discussions with a local person in order to better understand the local culture, power structure, and history. A key point to remember about information-gathering engagements is that host-nation leaders often stick to their talking points, just as a U.S. leader would. Their information needs to be constantly analyzed, and divergent local individuals must also be engaged. Historically, relying on too few individuals to gain local understanding has allowed the manipulation of units into involvement with, and settling of, local grievances. This has predictably led to poor second- and third-order effects. While most retrospective combat leaders can cite examples of these effects from experience, the most notorious example of this phenomenon would be Ahmad Chalibi; described by the New York Times as “a merry-eyed dynamo [who] tirelessly connived and schemed on behalf of two dreams: for American military might to drive Saddam Hussein from power and to install himself in the dictator’s place.”

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